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Dyce, Aberdeenshire

Historical Description

DYCE, a parish, in the district and county of Aberdeen, 7 miles (N. N. W.) from Aberdeen containing 472 inhabitants. This parish was in remote times called the chapelry of St. Fergus, to whom the present church was dedicated; and it is supposed that, with several adjacent parishes, it was anciently connected with the cathedral of Old Machar. It is about six miles in extreme length, and between three and four in breadth, and contains 4667 acres. Dyce is bounded by the parish of Fintray on the north, by that of Newhills on the south and south-west, by Kinellar on the north-west, and by Old and New Machar on the east. The surface is not marked by any very striking peculiarities, being in general tolerably level, with the exception of the land in the north-west, whence the broad hill of Tyrebagger slopes towards the south-east for a distance of about three miles, and then loses itself in the plain below. The river Don runs along the northern and eastern boundaries of the parish, and after a further course of a few miles in a south-eastern direction, falls into the German Ocean two miles north of Aberdeen: the trout-fishing during the months of March and April is very superior.

The finest soil is that of the low grounds along the banks of the river, consisting of alluvial deposit, and producing rich and heavy crops; in the other parts the soil is indifferent, and on the summit of the hill of Tyrebagger poor and thin. The number of acres under cultivation is 2910, in wood 1176, and in waste 581 acres, out of which 237 are considered capable of profitable cultivation. The system of agriculture here followed is a rotation of five, six, or seven years: the five years' consists of grain; turnips; bear, and sometimes oats, with clover and rye-grass; hay or pasture; and pasture. Large flocks of sheep were formerly to be seen, but they have been greatly diminished since the inclosures and the plantations in the parish were made, and there are now but a small number kept for home consumption: the cattle are mostly the native Aberdeen, frequently crossed with the short-horned breed, and in some grounds these latter are preferred unmixed. The farm-houses are in general good and substantial dwellings, and some of them very superior; the steadings are complete sets of buildings of a quadrangular form, slated, and usually supplied with threshing-mills. On the smaller farms. however, the houses and inclosures are of an inferior description, though in a state of progressive improvement. Great changes have been effected within the last twenty or thirty years on the inferior soils, six or seven hundred acres of which have been successfully treated; and a large embankment has been raised as a protection against the destructive inundations of the river Don, the floods of which have recently been much augmented through the multiplication of drains. The annual value of real property in the parish now amounts to £3570.

The prevailing rock in the district is granite; a large supply of it is obtained from quarries in the hill of Tyrebagger, and stone has at various times been cut for the Bell-rock lighthouse, Sheerness quay, Deptford quay, the West India docks, the Custom-house of London, St. Katherine's docks, and new London bridge. Very extensive plantations of Scotch fir and larch have been made on the hill, which are the resort of roe-deer, black-cock, and wood-cock; but the grouse that were so numerous before the formation of plantations have almost entirely disappeared. On the lower grounds are found partridges, snipe, wild-duck, hares, and rabbits. The inhabitants of the parish are employed chiefly in agriculture, and in working in the quarries. The great turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Inverness, via Huntly, runs along the western boundary for about two miles; and the turnpike-road from Aberdeen to Banff crosses the eastern quarter. The centre is intersected by the canal from Aberdeen to Inverury, by which coal, lime, and manure are brought up, and grain and other farm produce sent back, passage-boats plying on it twice a day during summer. Among the mansions are, Caskieben, the seat of Dr. Alexander Henderson, author of a work on wines, and Pitmedden, both modern buildings.

For ECCLESIASTICAL purposes the parish is within the bounds of the presbytery and synod of Aberdeen. The stipend of the minister is £160, of which nearly a third is drawn from the exchequer; there is a manse, with good offices, built some few years since, and the glebe is valued at £7. 10. per annum: patron, John Gordon Gumming Skene, Esq. Dyce church is an old edifice of uncertain date, small and uncomfortable. It stands at the northern extremity of the parish, upon a rocky point formed by a winding of the river Don, and commands a fine view, extending to twenty miles, of the scenery with which the course of that stream is ornamented. There is a parochial school, in which Latin is taught, with the usual branches of education; the master has the maximum salary, fees amounting to about £8, and an allowance from the fund of the late Mr. Dick. The chief relic of antiquity is a Druidical temple situated on the southern slope of Tyrebagger hill, and commanding an extensive view of the sea-coast and the lower grounds; it is formed of ten large pieces of granite, disposed about eight feet distant from each other, in the form of a circle, and rising to the height of from five to ten feet above the ground. In the churchyard is one of the oblong monumental stones commonly supposed to be of Runic origin, but justly traced to more recent times; among a great variety of other sculpture, it is marked by a cross, forming a prominent object in the graving. About a mile above the bridge of Dyce (where the Banff road crosses the river), and half a mile south from the river, is a round deep hollow, in the middle of an arable field, called The Lady's Jointure: the tradition respecting it is, that, long ago, a lady of Dyce, having teased her lord for a certain portion of the estate to be set apart as her jointure, was taken to the bottom of this hollow, and told that she should receive as much of the property as she could then see; which was only about an acre. Urns have sometimes been discovered in the parish. Arthur Johnston, a celebrated Latin scholar, was connected with this place.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis